A synthesizer can add a lot to your band’s sound; it fills pretty much any frequency range, and can complement a melody or completely fill out the backing sections of certain songs, even act as a bass guitar–if it’s amplified properly, of course. Without good amplification, a synthesizer part can kind of fall apart in a live setting. Here’s a look at some common ways to amplify a synthesizer that’s being played with a band, and recommendations for perfecting your own synth’s sound.
1. Guitar Amps – Many synth players use guitar amps to amplify their keyboards, since they’ve got extra guitar amps sitting around. This may be suitable for certain players, depending on how you use the synth. Guitar amps have a bit of a narrow range of possible frequencies; if you use a lot of bass in your synth sound, don’t use a guitar amp or you’ll risk blowing out the speakers. If you play the synthesizer like, well, a guitar, it may do you good to try a guitar amp, but be careful not to pump the amp too loud–it’s not built for a synth, and under the right conditions it will break.
2. Bass and Keyboard Amps – A better option is a good bass or keyboard amp. Bass amps tend to neglect the higher end, but they can handle the output of a low synth, and usually provide enough amplification for a synth to be easily heard, even with smaller bass amps. Keyboard amps are better, as they’re designed specifically for the purpose we’re discussing here, but they tend to be expensive, and if your synthesizer is not your main instrument and you don’t use it too often, it may be misspent money. If you go the amp route, either of these should be suitable for most bands.
3. PA Systems – You can plug a synthesizer directly through a PA system, and there’s a few big plusses for this type of amplification. The PA can handle the signal, they’re usually way more powerful than guitar, bass, or keyboard amps, you’ve got a lot of EQ control on most systems, and you can even send a stereo signal to a PA (though you may have to use two channels). The bad points are that since it’s a PA, the synth might sound too powerful. It might override the vocals or other instruments, so regardless of which option you choose, be sure to practice it out with your band at least a few times in different-sized rooms before your gig.
Do you know of any other ways to amplify a synthesizer? What way do you think works the best? Post in our comments section below.